I considered it my immense luck when the twins got admission in a school which was barely a 2-minute walk from my place. It was easy-peasy to drop them there in the morning and then again, to pick them up after school. The kids get to learn English and Spanish and not surprisingly, their Maths is much above the par specified for their level (Indian schools do much better at teaching Maths, I guess!). Personally, I am rather satisfied with the way the twin’s education is progressing.
The BF is not so happy though. He had his heart set on some other schools which wouldn’t accept the twins because of their age (they wanted the twins to repeat Kindergarten when in fact, the twins are eligible for grade 1 (along with their Indian counterparts). I wasn’t happy with the thought of making the kids lose out a year, more so because we intend to get back to India once the BF is done with his work here. The school they are in currently, has a modest rating whereas the ones the BF prefers are rated much higher. For the record, these are public schools we are talking about. The schools are funded entirely by the government. We had to pay a nominal fee of $20 dollars for admission though.
But this post isn’t about the twin’s school admissions. It is about how the schools here approach the matter of teaching, how parents are involved in making decisions about the school and how the school isn’t limited to the child alone. There is so much the Indian schools can learn from here. For instance, there are no textbooks. No bulky books that the children have to lug around. Stuff such as scrap books, art-work, drawing books , etc are kept in the school itself. The children get assignment sheets as printouts which they complete and submit back. Initially, I was skeptical, not sure how they could teach without books! I mean, kids had to refer something, right?!
But as it turns out, rote learning is a complete No-No! The education here is completely activity based (at least where the lower grades are concerned). Maths, English and Science are taught very differently. For Maths, they use games, like Dominoes or blocks. For Science, the kids do practical activities in class (they get to study live turtles, frogs, birds, insects, etc). The school conducts multiple field trips in a year for real-life experience. The twins did 4 months of Kindergarten here and in those 4 months, they had one outing each month (Thats a whole lot if you consider that Indian schools barely manage to conduct 1 picnic in an academic year. And I’m talking private school here. Am not sure if Government schools can afford a school picnic). The students here are taught in such a wide variety of way that text-books appear redundant! They get to watch cartoons, read story books, play on iPads (yes, the kids here get iPads! Heck, even I don’t have one 😐 )
(I was always against the twins watching cartoons, but the ones shown here are specifically suggested and approved by the Chicago Public Schools department – http://www.pbskids.org. The cartoons broadcast here are all knowledge-based, either related to Maths, English, Science, Dinosaurs or General awareness and Civic sense. These same cartoons are shown in the school)
The classrooms make a difference in the attitudes of children too. I remember the dreary classrooms of my childhood, with a few fading charts adorning the walls. Here, the classrooms are a riot of colours!
Apart from being really large, the rooms are airy, bright and ergonomically designed for the kids. One section of the wall is stuffed with blocks, play-dough, toys, jigsaw- puzzles, lego, dinosaurs, race cars. The other wall has the stationary stock. When I went to there for the first time, I was shocked to see the quantities of stationary made available for that class. There were large tubs (twice the size of grocery baskets) each filled with crayons, pencils, glue, paint, color-pencils, scissors, reams of chart papers, printout papers and every other kind of paper used for art projects.
It is amazing to see the kind of expense made by the government for the children – and I’m talking about an average-rated public school here!. I wonder what all facilities are made for children in higher-rated schools! When I mentioned this to the BF, he said that huge sums of money was allotted for education in India too, its just that it never reaches down till the school. Pity :(!
No wonder then, that the twins LOVE going to school. Even though the hours are longer (7 hours), it doesn’t seem that long. The kids get free breakfast in class(The motto being that “A Hungry Child Cannot Learn”). The lunch too is free, but I prefer giving home-made dabba just so that I can track their food intake !
It would be a matter of time before we return back to India. I guess of all the things here, the kids are likely to miss their school the most. I’m not saying that Indian schools are drab….its just that they’ll have to carry all those books, workbooks, classwork notebooks, homework notebooks, lunch and water! They’ll have to read from text books and mug up answers. They will have quarterly unit tests (unlike the regular assessments happening here) and worry about grades. To sum up, they will join the rat-race to score and stay ahead instead of just enjoying school for what it should be! A wonderful quote in the school’s reception says –
“Teach Me, I will forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me, I will learn”
The schools here, involve.
In India, they teach 😐 !